There isn’t much to do now but listen to that song
About the dreams you have when someone great is gone
I didn’t pay attention, didn’t get it at the time
When you drifted into silence
That was your goodbye
— When The Light Goes Out, Ben Lee
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Zombie dogs. Dead dads. Albert Brooks. Sex with peacocks. Rihanna. Ghostbuster marshmallow lesbian robots. Sounds interesting, right? Unfortunately not. It’s all a dream, you see. Hearing about other people’s dreams is notoriously boring unless you featured in the dream. We’re self-centred like that. So Ben Lee took a bit of a gamble basing solo album number eight Deeper Into Dream around the concept of his and others dreams. Turns out it’s a bit of a snoozer but Albert Brooks and Rihanna may be keen to hear more.
Ben Lee is quite the divisive figure. Aussies don’t like a braggart and young Ben’s declaration that 1998’s Breathing Tornadoes set was “the greatest Australian album of all time” that was “better” than – hells bells! – AC/DC’s Back In Black certainly didn’t endear him to many. He had the last laugh though. 2005’s Awake Is The New Sleep was a bona fide pop mainstream crossover hit. And he dated actress Claire Danes for a while. Although, admittedly, this may have made the haters hate him even more.
So, what’s a youngish songwriter to do when the success they’ve strived for finally arrives? Retreat to India for a bit of meditation and dream analysis, of course. Don’t mock. George Harrison is currently getting kudos via a Martin Scorsese-helmed movie for refusing to live in a material world. Ben Lee thankfully has the good grace not to fill Deeper Into Dream with the sound of sitars. There’s that.
Concept albums may be due a comeback, to be fair. It seems like a good idea to try to hold listeners’ attention in the new age of downloadable individual pick ‘n’ mix songs. But if the concept doesn’t work or hold together effectively it’s hard to recover. Such is this album’s fate.
Opening with one of three interludes peppered throughout in which various persons unknown describes fragments of their dreams, Deeper Into Dream‘s early songs do little to entice. Lean Into It and Indian Myna are lightweight confections that are erased from memory as soon as the last note sounds.
Elsewhere, Pointless Beauty has a decent upbeat chorus and When The Lights Go Out and Get Used To It come closest to catching the catchiness disease. The Church Of Everybody Else also rouses itself from the album’s slumbers with some scuzzy guitars (not sitars) upping the tempo before I Want My Mind Back drags things back down to a sedate state.
It’s all a little lacklustre. They won’t play this on the radio.
Never mind the greatest Australian album of all time. Deeper Into Dream isn’t even the best Ben Lee album ever. If he thinks differently someone should tell him he’s dreaming.